On the steps of San Buenaventura City Hall stands the statue of Father Junípero Serra, founder of the eponymous Mission San Buenaventura. It is here that you’ll find Ventura’s nexus, at Father Serra’s side, its past held in its century old city hall. A quick about-face holds Ventura’s present, a meandering city street sleepily unfolding into the ocean, flanked by gently swaying palm trees. Ventura began as a long held Chumash settlement, Shisholop, later displaced by California missions, solidified in the modern context by the historic U.S. Route 101 (now Ventura Highway). Many passed through, and little by little an enraptured population remained, held steadfast by the “city of good fortune”.
Amidst Ventura’s many gifts, the ocean is what truly holds captive the hearts of the locals and enamors its many visitors. Bestowed with a wonderfully irregular coastline, beach conditions can change from point to point, resulting in a stunning variety and wide appeal for all coastline activities. Surfer’s Knoll, a popular local surf spot is just a stone's throw from Harbor Cove Beach, nicknamed ‘Mother’s Beach’ due to its protective cove creating a safe family swimming destination. San Buenaventura State Beach sprawls alongside Ventura, punctuated by its picturesque promenade and pier.
While its difficult to avert your gaze from the city’s gorgeous coastline, there’s plenty happening in the city worthy of your undivided attention. Walk the beautiful promenade at seaside Ventura Harbor Village, a bright family-friendly destination boasting dozens of boutiques, galleries bars and restaurants (many duking it out to claim the title for the city’s best fish taco - a battle we’re happy to be in the middle of!). Its proximity to the harbor also makes it the launch point for boat tours and kayak rentals, taking full advantage of its ideal locale. Further in town you’ll find a bevy of wineries taking full advantage of local California grapes and microbreweries producing some of California’s best craft beers to enjoy in outdoor patios.
Ventura’s harbors provide easy access to the stunning Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary. Comprised of five unique islands strung along the Santa Barbara Channel, these islands are home to thousands of distinct plant and animal species, earning it the nickname “The Galapagos of North America”. Numerous charter boats and adventure tour companies are on hand to help introduce these rugged coastal gems, each with their own unique pull. Santa Cruz Island is an adventure seeker's paradise, hosting challenging sea cave kayaking and unique rugged camping opportunities. Anacapa Island provides short hikes, and two distinctly wonderful viewpoints: Pinniped Point, providing a vista view of local sea lion and elephant seal colonies; and Inspiration Point, and unforgettable cliff-point panorama of the jagged coastal formations of Santa Cruz Island. Those less intrepid will undoubtedly enjoy a cruise or boat tour around the islands, particularly in the summer. Ten percent of the global blue whale populations converges on the national park each summer, providing an unmissable opportunity at an up close and personal experience with these majestic giants.
Dubbed the “land of endless summers”, it’s hard not to fall a little in love with this little beach town bursting with gifts.
Channel Islands National Park